“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.” – Bruce Fairchild Barton, author, advertising executive, and politician
This fall marks 10 years since I learned I’d be a parent for the first time. I was 25 when I found out I would be a mother, single and living in a new place, far away from my family. Not far removed from college graduation, and still many years from paying off that debt, I wasn’t ready in logical terms to become a parent. I had a job though, and insurance, and a pretty deep belief that my adult life was going to work out no matter what perceived obstacles I faced. So I embraced motherhood early in my pregnancy and never looked back.
To say that my daughter Emilia is a gift is an understatement. I think all parents are thankful for the lessons of their firstborn (eventually), but for me, nearly everything about my entire life has changed since the day I found out she was already on her way to meet me. As I’ve learned about love, relationships and disappointments, so has she. Through the years she’s been my constant, my right-hand person, and the only one who will drink pickle juice from the jar with me and not tell me I’m weird.
Some things, like knowing I would fight to the death if anyone tried to harm her, came to me immediately as a mother. Other things about parenthood snuck up on me over the years and their realizations surprised me (like crying at EVERY single Christmas commercial). Lately, I’ve been having a lot of those “aha” moments and even though her 10th birthday isn’t until April, I’ve been her parent for just over a decade now.
And it takes a decade to look at the kid in front of you, already halfway to adulthood, and realize so deeply it rattles your bones that there is a reason for this person walking this earth at this time. There is something she will do – great or small – that will change the world, for the better.
It takes a decade of bedtimes, and wakeups, and cuddles, and cries, and laughter so hard you both think you’re going to pee your pants to understand that who you are today hinges on who that young person made you. It takes that long to understand that all of your own hopes for her life matter very little in the grand scheme of things. She’ll become who she will become – separate from you, and soon enough. It will take me a little longer to fully accept that.
It takes a decade to truly appreciate the other half of the person you birthed. It takes that long to notice the things about your child that are decidedly NOT you – the blue/green eyes, the wild imagination, the ease at which she approaches every situation – and appreciate where those things originated. It takes that long to be okay with sharing the good, inherent traits of your child with a person you barely knew when she was created.
You learn in a decade’s time that children are resilient and individuals. They often soar or flounder despite what you do as a parent. You’ll be given credit for the first thing, and be blamed for the second. Stay loyal to your child, above all others. Her life is the one you will answer for at the end of yours. Even on her bad days, fight for her.
It takes a decade to truly comprehend that each child is different. There is no master playbook that tells you what to expect and when and there are certainly no accurate yardsticks for pitting kids against each other. Your child is who she is and on her terms. Don’t expect anything different and don’t expect other kids to be the same.
I think it takes 10 years to stop saying “hurry up” in the mornings (mostly), or at least to be aware of the fallacy in those words.
When you’ve reached 10 years of parenting, the passing of time really manifests itself in bigger ways. Somewhere along the way, your child managed to start sleeping at night, using the toilet, reading, writing, forming her own opinions and picking out her own clothes. In less than the amount of time since she arrived on earth, she’ll choose her career path, the next place she will call “home” and potentially her first love.
She will leave you sooner than you’ve had her so far. You’ll be proud when she does. You wonder if maybe there’s a way you can get all your crying out ahead of time so there are no tears on that day. You know she’ll cry with you, though, if it happens.
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